Brother Fridena was born July 3, 1928 in Globe, Arizona. Tom’s family moved to Tucson when he was two years old. He attended Tucson public schools and graduated from Tucson High in 1946. Tom enrolled at the U of A and pledged Fiji in the fall of 1946. While attending the University, Brother Fridena was very active on campus. He was president of both the freshman and sophomore classes. He was a member of the student council in his junior and senior years. Tom was a member of Sophos, Chain Gang, and Blue Key men’s honoraries, and the ROTC military honorary, Scabbard and Blade. He played football for three years. Brother Fridena was also the recipient of the prestigious Merrill P. Freeman Award in 1950, which is given to the outstanding graduate of the year. While in the Fiji house, Brother Fridena was a skully and chapter vice president. Tom graduated in 1950 with a B.A. degree.
Upon graduation, Brother Fridena was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, but for some reason, fell between the cracks and was not immediately called into the military. He obtained employment at Tucson High School as a history teacher and assistant football coach. In 1952, Uncle Sam finally caught up with Brother Fridena and he entered the Air Force. Before he left for Okinawa, he married his college sweetheart, a Delta Gamma by the name of Pat Crawford, who was from Bisbee, Arizona. Tom served as a radar controller in Okinawa in support of our troops in Korea. Brother Fridena was honorably discharged in 1955 and went back to Tucson High to teach. Tom says he couldn’t make enough money to live on so he moved to Phoenix in pursuit of a new line of work.
Once arriving in Phoenix, Tom went to work for US Gypsum as a salesman. That lasted until 1959. He then went to work for United Wholesale as their general manager. In 1968, he left and went to work for Golden Valley Development, a real estate company, as their sales manager until 1974. In 1974, Tom found out what he really wanted to do and went to work for Toltec Real Estate Corporation as a vice president. He stayed there for 30 years and then went on to form Tom Fridena and Associates. Tom says this is something to just keep him busy. During his business career Tom also worked as a football official. He started officiating in high school and moved to junior college, then the Big Sky Conference, the Western Athletic Conference, and the Pacific 10 Conference from which he retired in 1987.
Brother Fridena has numerous areas of community involvement. He is a life director of the Fiesta Bowl, having served 36 years. He has served on the Selection Committee, is a past Fiesta Bowl parade chairman, and was president of the Fiesta Bowl in 1984 and 1985. He was a member of the Metropolitan YMCA board of directors and past chairman of the Camping Committee. In addition, he was past chairman of the Zoomers, whose wives were members of the Phoenix Zoo Auxillary. The husbands, or Zoomers, helped their wives with various projects and fundraisers. Brother Fridena is on the board of directors of the Tucson High School Badger Foundation and is in the Tucson High Hall of Fame. Tom also supports the U of A by being a member of the Wildcat Club and the A Club.
Tom’s wife of 54 years, Pat, passed away this year. Brother Fridena has a daughter, Eden Pearson, and a son-in-law, Mark Pearson ’79, who is also an Upsilon Alpha Fiji.
When asked, “What does Upsilon Alpha and Fiji mean to you?” Tom replied: “Going through rush I was a real meathead. I needed help. Stupid as I was, I recognized the fact that Fiji would shape me up. I was not mistaken. Hard to believe that some of the rough edges disappeared and a little sophistication began to appear. What really changed my life was the interaction with my Fiji brothers, through their role as mentors to me. I began to realize that all was not just fun and games. You had to work to have a complete and meaningful life. The Fijis taught me that. My college brothers are still my buddies. NOT FOR COLLEGE DAYS ALONE!”